Separation of God and Bush
If you've been keeping up on Presidunce Bush's plans to open federal funding to faith-based organizations, you have probably formed some opinion about it. NonProphet hates the idea unequivocally. Opening a new tap on limited funds is one part of our concern. The separation between church and state is secondary, from our perspective.
Then there's the gray area. Perhaps predictably, the church/state money issue is erupting in Texas. The state has a program that will pay $1.5 million this year to a Tulsa, Oklahoma-based religious organization to provide hugs for prisoners in volume, in order to reduce recidivism. In 1997, Texas became the first state to use this faith-based prison ministry effort that has now taken root in Iowa and Kansas. There's nothing new about prison ministries; what's new is the state paying the tab.
The religious organization, Tulsa, OK-based InnerChange, thinks it may be onto something (the government tit?) So, what does the ACLU think? "The ACLU has looked into it and has been quoted as saying more programs like this are needed in the system," says Jack Cowley, the program's director. "Their only issue is that there may be denominational issues, such as there may be a Muslim who wants services but there are no Muslim providers."
If the ACLU is sanguine, NonProphet is not. While I agree that the state needs to do whatever is necessary to help prisoners gain access to spiritual guidance if they want it, the state's responsibility ends with information and accommodation. Funding a faith-based program with tax dollars may work out in cases where the religious organization is providing only faith-free medical services, feeding the hungry, etc. with the money. But when the whole point of the program is to snare souls in order to advance the goals of the state---however laudable those goals may be---the state has crossed the line.
I don't see this as a denomination-sensitivity issue at all, but a souls issue. Meddling with souls is something I do not wish to fund. As an atheist myself, I find it appalling (and logically inconsistent, too, as atheists don't quite know what to think about souls; I see soul-tending as a mild form of mind control, but don't mind me). Were I not an atheist, I would find it inconsistent with the Constitution, at the very least.
Here's the next logical thing to consider. Let's say Bush is successful in opening the gate for religious organizations to receive federal funding. Then, down the road, the next clever Republican decides to play devil's advocate and shuts the gate---now he has an excuse to reduce the total federal funding pot. This whole thing smacks of that kind of trickery. Call it a conSpiracy.
If you want to read more about the Texas Tit Tap, click here for a Nonprofit Times article.
Friday, February 01, 2002
Separation of God and Bush
Not the AntiProphet
Torrents got some flack over NonProphet having a for-profit sponsor for a blog about nonprofit. Guess it's time for a primer on what nonprofit should mean and what it just doesn't. Thanks, Spamtooth, for the flack!
To begin with "Nonprofit" means two things (or should):
One, the business of a nonprofit organization is not to make money for its organizers, but to turn every red cent into services for the community. Of course, those services have all kinds of costs; among them: pizza, electricity, postage, rent, software, pizza, salaries, and pizza. Employees of nonprofits gotta eat.
Two, nobody owns "equity" in a nonprofit corporation. No owners, no stock certificates. Salaries, yes. Get rich, no.
Now there's another possibility. If a nonprofit applies for and gets a "Determination" from the IRS that it can operate as a charity, then contributors can deduct their gifts from their taxes (to the measly extent the law allows). The nonprofit also won't have to file a regular tax return or pay income taxes. The special tax return for NPOs is the 990 form, which allows the IRS to make sure the organization continues to meet the regulatory standards to keep its tax-exempt status.
Finally, depending on the state and municipality in which the organization is located, it may or may not be exempt from sales taxes, property and advalorem taxes. (Oklahoma NPOs pay sales tax, New York NPOs don't.)
What nonprofits are not is anti-profit. In fact, much of the money that ends up in charitable coffers was once somebody's profit. Foundations earn dividends on their investments, a form of profit that they then turn over to nonprofit organizations in the form of grants. Corporations earn profits, and then give some infinitesimal fraction of it to charity. They also pay salaries to their employees, who end up making the majority of the contributions that fuel America's charities. So the NonProphet is friendly to the idea of profit (until the revolution anyway), and our corporate sponsor is a friend indeed. (By the way, they gave us a total of $12.00 in cash, and let us use their computers for this blog, no strings attached. If I start advocating terrorism or child molesting, they might pull their funding, but that's the extent of their control here. They've got about as much leverage as my tongue trying to open a Heineken.)
Anyway, Bravo! Flack away!
NonProphet thanks Yahoo! for putting our blog in its directory. Those bespectacled Yahooster reviewers apparently appreciated our No Bull talk on NPO topics. To show my appreciation, you'll now find the Yahoo! search thingy over on the left. Wahoo!
Monday, January 28, 2002
-| Time Out |-
For thousands of New York families, the crisis continues, but for the rest of us, well, we’ve started opening our mail without gloves again. The damage has been done, and not hundreds, not thousands, but hundreds of thousands of charities are still sinking in rotten returns. Are we seeing the greatest excuse for not giving since the Great Depression?
Of course, some organizations are raking in revenues. But they’re the ones that are also paying out astronomically to aid families. So, who’s complaining? My own daughter, living in NY but unscathed by the Unthinkable Act, has managed to get Emergency Disaster Medicaid, and she’s catching up on some long overdue dental work.
Now, I’m just going to mildly remind everyone that life goes on, and that local community nonprofits still have the rent to pay. Corporate giving programs and foundations aren’t off the hook for the ongoing needs of their communities, even though it feels good to be part of the greatest horror ever told. Unfortunately, cultural organizations and those who serve the disadvantaged in little towns can’t spend millions on television advertising. While the Campaign Thermometer soars like a skyscraper elevator for NYC, the little guys get the shaft.
I hold out no hope of redirecting one scintilla of media attention toward the mundane and boring business of charity as usual. Every synapse of the collective mind is writhing in epileptic convulsion to the beat of Osama’s drum, throbbing in lock slobber to the march of quasi-war in the pulverized hills of Ladenland. Somebody needs to slap us.
Sunday, January 27, 2002
This gets my Disaster Relief Ersatz Contribution Kitsch (DRECK) Award for the month. PETCO Foundation, the corporate giving component of Petco Animal Supplies (dog insurance, gift cards for pets, travel trouseaux for pets, cat apparel, etc.) has launched its logo onto the tragedy wagon with a $150,000 contribution to train Disaster Dogs. Just in case we get another 9/11, PETCO wants us to be ready! The national nonprofit trade publications have picked this up and helped this company to paste its logo far and wide. For this tour de force of Public Relations Charity, the NetProphet is pleased to present the January DRECK Award to PETCO for its Doberman-sized pile of typically topical public spirit.